The gallery’s second L.A. space is a former car showroom
Words by KELSEY McKINNON
The new West Hollywood gallery. PHOTO: Courtesy Elon Schoenholz Photography.
In the mid-1990s, before Swiss gallerist Iwan Wirth would become one of the world’s most powerful art dealers, he along with his wife, Manuela, and his mother-in-law, Ursula Hauser, his business partners in Hauser & Wirth, would often visit Los Angeles to meet new artists. On one such occasion, Wirth befriended the well-connected installation artist Jason Rhoades. “[He] became a friend and my guide, really opening up the city to me,” remembers Wirth. Rhoades would pick up his European friend at LAX, take him to friends’ studios (many of whom, including Paul McCarthy and Richard Jackson, would go on to show at Hauser & Wirth), and they would inevitably swing by Heritage Classics, a vintage car shop on Santa Monica Boulevard to check out rare European sports cars. Before his untimely passing, Rhoades even traded a Chevrolet Caprice for a blue 1989 Ferrari 328 GTS that belonged to Ursula Hauser.
Three decades later, Hauser & Wirth now represents more than 90 artists and estates, and has 15 locations across the globe, including Switzerland (their headquarters are in Zurich), the United Kingdom, Spain, Monaco, Hong Kong and New York. In 2021, Wirth received a call from the company’s L.A.-based partner and executive director, Stacen Berg, about a potential new gallery site: a historic 1930s Spanish Colonial Revival-style car dealership on a busy corner in West Hollywood. “When I started describing this building, he knew exactly what I was talking about,” says Berg. The structure was such an integral part of Hauser & Wirth’s history that, for Wirth, it was kismet.
GEORGE CONDO’s Constellation II, 2022. PHOTO: Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth.
Never mind that it has only been seven years since Hauser & Wirth opened a sprawling 116,000-square-foot complex in the former Globe Mills factory in Downtown L.A., an art-world destination in and of itself with a museum-quality exhibition schedule, public programming, a bookshop and a destination restaurant (Manuela). While DTLA will remain Hauser & Wirth’s home base in the region, the new West Hollywood site checks an entirely different box: a traditional-style gallery with proximity to clients and contemporaries (Gagosian and Pace are both within striking distance), and the ability to do things on a smaller scale.
Co-presidents (from left) MARC PAYOT, MANUELA WIRTH and IWAN WIRTH. PHOTO: SimCanetty-Clarke.
The team called in longtime collaborator Annabelle Selldorf, the famous German architect who happened to be on the West Coast finishing up her redesign of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. “Adaptive reuse and architectural preservation have been hallmarks of Hauser & Wirth’s activities from our gallery’s inception 30 years ago,” says New York-based co-president Marc Payot. Over the course of a year, concrete floors were repoured and polished, skylights were upgraded, trussed pine beams were sandblasted, and garage doors were replaced with modern retractable glass windows. In addition to ample gallery space, the triangular floor plan boasts a library space, sales offices and a sunny kitchen where Manuela chef Kris Tominaga will cater intimate dinners. “This is a business based on relationships,” says Berg. “It’s such a simple thing, but just to sit down with people over a meal and have that intimacy is everything.”
The debut exhibit is an approximately 10-piece show by celebrated New York artist George Condo called “People Are Strange,” a title which Condo borrowed from the 1967 song by The Doors, a quintessential Los Angeles band. “[George] is an artist with a love of L.A.,” says Payot. “[He] has a very particular insight into and an interest in the atmosphere that makes L.A. so unique—simultaneously solemn and euphoric, connected and entropic, logical and ineffable, beautiful and ugly.” A series of fragmented Cubist-style portraits and abstractions hold a mirror to the world on the other side of the windowpane. (Perhaps not coincidentally, the famous Troubadour nightclub, The Doors’ frequent hangout, is just down the street.)
ZENG FANZHI’s E Series 2022 no. 14, 2022. PHOTO: Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth.
ZENG FANZHI’s Untitled, 2022. PHOTO: Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth.
The opening also coincides with the Frieze Los Angeles art fair at the Santa Monica Airport, where Hauser & Wirth will have a booth. Meanwhile, the DTLA complex will host the first L.A. solo exhibition by Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi and an exhibit of new pieces by Hungarian painter Rita Ackermann. Then there’s the just-launched Performance Project, which offers music, dance, film screenings and live performance in a new dedicated space, and the return of Education Lab, a unique collaboration between the gallery and the local community (last year, it was a nearby high school) to foster a dialogue between art, artists and a diverse audience.
With a constant stream of creative energy radiating from the West Coast, Iwan and Manuela, whose primary residence is in the U.K., were compelled to establish a home here, too. In 2021, the couple purchased Richard Neutra’s iconic Lovell House, a modernist masterpiece of cantilevered steel and glass in Los Feliz, in between the DTLA complex and the new WeHo gallery. They’ve enlisted architects Frank Escher and Ravi GuneWardena to help restore the home to its former glory.
RITA ACKERMANN’s Vertical Vanish, 2022. PHOTO: Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth.
“We are expanding our commitment to L.A.,” says Wirth. “I still find Los Angeles to be one of the most exciting and dynamic art centers in the world.” Harkening back to the building’s roots, which displayed masterful pieces of automotive art, the new space honors its past while embodying forward progress. Perhaps, it’s a subtle reminder always to keep accelerating. Undoubtedly, it’s a sentiment Rhoades would have enjoyed. 8980 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, 213-943-1620; hauserwirth.com.
Feature image: Artist Mark Bradford guides students at Hauser & Wirth’s Education Lab Los Angeles workshop in 2022. PHOTO: Sarah M. Golonka/SMG Photography.
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of C Magazine.
Discover more DESIGN news.
See the story in our digital edition